Now that winter approaches, most runners start shutting down their training. I tend to do the opposite, step it up, and increase the weekly miles. But the type of training shifts from the mountains down to the desert floor. For me, the summer is about mountain 100s and adventure runs that involve peaks and long climbs. But during the winter, I love to run on the plains and train for the speedy flat-land races. This is how I discovered the beauty of the Pony Express Trail, running in the desert during the cold months.
My next races will likely be Across the Years 72-hours, Rocky Raccoon 100, Buffalo Run 100, and Salt Flats 100, all relatively flat courses. Making the shift from mountains to the plains is not as easy as it may seem, and for me getting even more difficult with age. These past six months have been good. Even though I slowed down, there has never been a better year for me running uphill. My downhill speed hasn’t fully come back since the broken leg almost two years ago, but my strength and speed running up hills during later stages of recent 100s has been a nice surprise. But now it is time to leave the hills behind for a few months and rediscover the flats. I started my winter training officially started on October 26, later than usual because of a terrible three-week cold/illness.
To kick it off, I decided to do a 50K+ run all the way around Lake Mountain, a mountain behind my house that rises about 3,000 feet above the desert floor. I’ve run around this mountain 11 times before. Because of the terrible fire on the mountain more than a year ago caused by thoughtless target shooters, large sections of road are closed as the mountain vegetation tries to heal. But that wouldn’t stop me, I would simply run down Redwood Road on the east side by the Lake for some good fast flat miles.
I accomplished the 33-mile run, but it was rough, slow and discouraging. It seemed like all my chronic injuries of the past plagued me during the run. Has age finally caught up with me? For the next few days, I recovered. I let my sore hamstring calm down and then carefully started controlled treadmill running to get back up on that horse. The first day was rough, the next day better, and by the third I had hope that I could pull out of this running low and start getting in better shape.
So, just seven days after my last Lake Mountain Loop, I decided to try it again. But this time I would make the loop bigger with even more flats, 41 miles. The initial 15-mile paved run along Utah Lake in the dark went much, much better this week. My pace was good. I underestimated the frigid cold that is typical in Cedar Valley on the west side and slowed terribly because of the cold and tumbleweeds but as the sun warmed things up my legs came to life and I finished strong. In fact this week I covered the 41-mile loop more than an hour faster than the 33-mile loop the previous Saturday. I came away convinced that my training was making progress and I was started to get in shape. Yes, that might sound silly, given the many huge runs I accomplished during the summer, and the ability to do a 33-mile run last week, but still, I felt out of shape.
I kept the training going with early morning consistent treadmill runs of between 7-10 miles. For the third straight Saturday I again ran around my mountain for the 14th time. This would be the largest loop ever around the mountain, 44 miles. This time I was better prepared for the cold and kept a solid pace going that surprised me. I did run low on water when my bottles froze solid right after dawn. But once re-hydrated at Camp Floyd, I was able to run negative mile splits for the last 12 miles or so.
With the good results being seen, it now is much easier to crawl out of bed in the morning and train. At 55-years old I wonder if I can beat Father Time once again and compete with those much younger. My big test will be Across the Years 72-hour race held over New Years’ near Phoenix. I’ve run the 48-hour race three years previous and finished in 1st, 2nd, and 3rd for each of those years. This year I wanted to step up to 72-hours, run more than 200 miles, and try to compete for the win. My training for the next five weeks will be key. Time is short, but with further determination and being careful to avoid injury, I think it is possible. I ran 86 miles last week and it is time to ease that up to 100.